It has been nearly two months since Oberlin College was fined tens of millions of dollars in damages for what a jury determined was defamation against a local family bakery. Now one of the family members says the school’s defiance and vow to fight a “long legal process” sent “a clear message” to him and his 91-year-old father that the school was just waiting for them to die in order to avoid paying.
David Gibson, fighting back emotions, posted a video on Facebook where he announced that he had been diagnosed late last year with pancreatic cancer. He accused Oberlin College of refusing to accept the jury verdict and protracting the legal battle in an effort to wait for him to die.
“As you may know, the president of Oberlin College has recently indicated, from their perspective, the jury verdict is just the first round of what will be a long and difficult battle,” Gibson said. “It’s become clear that the fight’s not over.”
He then explained how he had been diagnosed with cancer and that once he started his next round of treatment he would be unable to hide the disease any longer. He said Oberlin has known about his condition since February.
“Their legal team filed a motion to prevent any mention of my cancer diagnosis at the trial, and honestly, we agreed because I wanted the jury to decide this case on the facts alone. Nothing else,” he said.
The jury awarded the family who owns Gibson’s Bakery some $33 million in combined punitive and compensatory damages. Ohio law caps the punitive damages awarded at $22 million, or the result may have been millions more. After the jury verdicts, Oberlin remained obstinate and claimed it did nothing wrong. After the Gibsons were awarded $11 million in compensatory damages, Oberlin vice president and general counsel Donica Thomas Varner claimed the school was being punished for the actions of its students, even though school administrators encouraged and supported protesters outside Gibson’s Bakery. After the family was awarded an additional $22 million in punitive damages, the school said it would not be swayed “from our core values” and blamed the bakery once again for the whole ordeal.
“As you know, the jury sent a clear message: That the truth still matters in this country,” Gibson said in his Facebook video. “But recent public statements from Oberlin College make it clear that the college is refusing to accept the jury’s decision. The college has stated that the verdict is just the beginning of a long legal process.”
“I believe they are sending a clear message to me and my 91-year-old dad that they will just wait us out,” he added.
Despite this, Gibson said, he would “do everything I can to make sure I see this through.”
The trouble started when Oberlin College student Jonathan Aladin attempted to use a fake ID to purchase alcohol and then shoplift from Gibson’s Bakery. Allyn Gibson, another family member, was working at the time and called the police. Aladin knocked the phone from Allyn’s hand and ran. Allyn chased him. When police arrived at the scene, Allyn was being physically attacked by Aladin and two other students — Cecelia Whettstone and Endia Lawrence.
After he pleaded guilty, Aladin acknowledged race was not a factor in how he was treated at the bakery. Yet other Oberlin students began protesting the bakery and harassing customers. Oberlin administrators provided food and beverages for protesters and allowed them to use school office printers to make flyers that called the bakery racist. Multiple witnesses testified that Oberlin Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo distributed these flyers and helped orchestrate the protests. Another college official, Julio Reyes, was accused of stopping people from taking photos and videos of protesters.